February 14, 2018
By Eric Wolff, Emily Holden and Alex Guillen –
EPA on Wednesday retracted its claim that Administrator Scott Pruitt has received a “blanket waiver” to fly first class whenever he travels, after POLITICO pointed officials to federal travel rules that appeared to bar such arrangements.
Pruitt has been routinely flying first class at taxpayers’ expense after securing what EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox had described as “blanket waiver,” POLITICO reported Tuesday. But the General Services Administration says federal rules require agencies’ oversight staffers to sign off on officials’ first- or business-class travel “on a trip-by-trip basis … unless the traveler has an up-to-date documented disability or special need.”
Wilcox changed his explanation after POLITICO pointed out that section of the regulations. GSA does allow first-class travel for security reasons, but only if agencies request a waiver for each trip.
“As such, for every trip Administrator Pruitt submits a waiver to fly in either first or business class,” Wilcox said, amending the agency’s earlier statement, which yielded criticism from Republican lawmakers and led Democrats to request an inspector general investigation.
A GSA spokesperson confirmed its ban on blanket waivers to POLITICO Wednesday but would not discuss Pruitt’s specific circumstances.